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    Entries in 2015 Women's World Championship KO (13)

    Sunday
    Apr052015

    Women's World Championship Finals, Day 4: Mariya Muzychuk The New Women's World Champion

    Another year goes by, and there is yet another women's world chess champion. There have been nine champions during this millennium - or eight, if one counts Hou Yifan's different reigns, of which there is likely to be a third starting late this fall. But let's give credit to the women who were in the arena in Sochi, and in particular to the one who came out the winner: Ukraine's Mariya Muzychuk. Her opponent, Natalia Pogonina, needed to win today to force tiebreaks, and while she took every chance and every reasonable risk she could, Muzychuk managed to keep control pretty much from start to finish. If anything, Muzychuk missed various chances to gain more, but as a draw was sufficient she preferred control to the pursuit of the full point.

    So congratulations to the winner, who is the second straight Ukranian to win the knockout title. For her sake, hopefully she will fare better than her predecessor (Anna Ushenina) when she faces Hou Yifan in a title match later this year.

    Saturday
    Apr042015

    Recap of Everything: Women's World Championship, Aeroflot and the U.S. Championships

    (Not literally everything, of course; that might take a while.)

    The women's world championship tournament could have come to an end today, and it was close. Natalia Pogonina lost the previous game and needed to make something of her last white in game 3. After a very complicated opening resulted in a middlegame where Pogonina had a piece for three pawns, it seemed that she had the better chances for a good while. To keep and try to grow that advantage, she needed to try f4-f5 at some moment - on move 29, for example - in order to open lines for her extra piece and to clear f4 for the knight. When she delayed too long her opponent, Mariya Muzychuk, was able to lock up the white pieces and steadily encroach into her opponent's territory. I don't know if she was ever winning, but she was close. Pogonina's 43.f5 was perhaps a case of better late than never: it didn't offer her any winning chances by this point, but it had some of the same virtues as before; in particular helping the sidelined knight from h3 return to the fray. White soon returned the piece, and although she didn't get all three of her pawns back she was still able to save the game. Tomorrow Pogonina will have to win with Black to force tiebreaks; otherwise, it's over and Muzychuk is the new world champion.

    About the Aeroflot Open I will say very little. Only this: Daniil Dubov defeated Lu Shanglei in the last round to tie for first with Ian Nepomniachtchi, who only drew his game. Unfortunately for Dubov, Nepomniachtchi had the better tiebreaks, which meant the latter won the big prize: qualification to the Dortmund super-tournament at the end of June.

    On to the U.S. Championships. Today the marquee matchup took place between Hikaru Nakamura and Wesley So, and it was a dramatic game. So was doing alright until his 28th move, 28...g5, which he regretted the moment Nakamura played 29.f4. This gave White a significant edge, but it didn't last long. After 29...gxf4 30.Qf2 Nh4 Nakamura blundered with 31.Bxf4?/??, missing the shot 31...Nf3+. In a move Nakamura went from clearly better to clearly worse, but despite a prolonged bout of head-shaking he kept his concentration and defended well. So enjoyed a tax-free extra pawn in the endgame, but Nakamura managed to reach a rook ending. All rook endings are drawn, according to the ancient wisdom of our forebears, so Q.E.D. In fact, all six games on the "men's" side were drawn. Nakamura and Robson remain the co-leaders with 3/4.

    In the women's section there were only two draws. One was round 3 co-leader Rusudan Goletiani's game against Paikidze. That allowed Katerina Nemcova to take over clear first with 3.5/4, thanks to her win with Black against Alisa Melekhina. Goletiani is in clear second, while Paikidze, Irina Krush (who defeated Apurva Vikud) and Sabina Foisor (who defeated Annie Wang) have 2.5 points. Tatev Abrahamyan won her second straight game, and she has 2/4.

    Friday
    Apr032015

    Women's World Championship Finals, Day 2

    There's bad news and good news for Natalia Pogonina's fans. The bad news: she lost today against Mariya Muzychuk and trails their (best of) four game match 1.5-.5. The good news: she trailed in her last three matches as well before winning them, so she can shrug it off as business as usual and come back raring to go. It's not too late for her to win the women's world championship.

    Today's game was somewhat strange, in my estimation, as both players - especially Pogonina - seemed to persistently underestimate the importance of controlling the e5 square. In fact, she needn't have allowed White's f4 break in the first place. She stood better in the early middlegame, and one slightly ugly but strong way of keeping control was 27...g5, to be followed by ...Ng6 (and ...Bxg3 the moment White breaks the pin on the knight). Such a position would be almost unloseable for Pogonina.

    Instead, she allowed White to achieve 28.f4, after which the pressure would always be on Black to hold. A computer might thrive on this task, but not a human, and very soon Muzychuk had a winning advantage. She missed a chance to deliver an earlier knockout with 45.Ndf5!, when after 45...gxf5 46.R1xf5 Qe7 47.Rh6 Black will get picked apart one piece and pawn at a time. Black's slight material advantage is useless, as the bishop on b7, the knight on c5 and the rooks are playable no-to-almost no role in the defense whatsoever.

    Muzychuk missed this opportunity and one or two more chances later on to put a quicker end to the game, but the trend was always on her side and her position was just too much easier to play. Pogonina lasted until move 58 before throwing in the towel.

    Thursday
    Apr022015

    Women's World Championship Finals, Day 1

    The final round, and thus the final match, of the women's world championship started today. Natalia Pogonina and Mariya Muzychuk played the first game of a best-of-four classical match (there will be rapid tiebreaks in case of a 2-2 tie), and although Pogonina had good chances at one moment the game finished in a draw. The critical point in the game lasted for only two half-moves: Pogonina stood somewhat better after 26.Bg2, aiming among other things to expand on the kingside with f4 while trying to prevent Black from safely achieving ...c5, liberating her queen's bishop. Muzychuk probably should have played 26...Bd6, fighting for the c5 square and allowing the bishop to retreat to f8, where it would help cover the kingside.

    Instead, she played 26...Bc7, and now if Pogonina had played 27.Nd4! Black would have been in some trouble, e.g. 27...c5 28.Nf5 with pressure all over the board. Fortunately for Muzychuk, White played 27.Nf4, to put the knight on d3 in order to keep control over c5. She succeeded in that aim, but after 27...Nd7 28.Nd3 Bb6 29.Nc5 Bc8! 30.Nxd7 Bxd7 31.Bc5 Bxc5 32.Qxc5 Qa5! White's advantage was completely gone and the game was drawn soon thereafter.

    Game 2 is tomorrow, and while Pogonina might be slightly disappointed, she can at least take comfort in the fact that she is not starting a fourth straight match with a 1-0 deficit.

    Tuesday
    Mar312015

    Women's World Championship Semi-Finals Tiebreaks: Pogonina, M. Muzychuk Qualify for the Final

    The playoff matches were both pretty ugly, but between the pressure and the exhaustion the players are surely under that's to be expected. Natalia Pogonina completed her third straight comeback, defeating Pia Cramling 1.5-.5 in the rapid games, while Mariya Muzychuk needed a pair of 10-minute games to overcome Harika Dronavalli in the other semi-final. Pogonina and Muzychuk will contest a best-of-four game match for the women's world championship starting Thursday, after the only pure rest day scheduled for the entire event.

    In the first 25-minute game between Cramling and Pogonina, Cramling was better much of the way and could have kept the pressure on with 30.Rc6. It's not just an invasion; it's prophylaxis, too. In the game Pogonina met 30.Ne2 with 30...Nf5, putting annoying pressure on White's d-pawn. After 30.Rc6, however, 30...Nf5 would be met by 31.Nxd5 now that 31...Qxd5 is impossible. In the game Black was momentarily better, but it soon ended in a draw by repetition.

    In the rematch, Cramling was under serious pressure right from the jump, and from around moves 40-50 she was totally busted. There were plenty of wins along the way, and the last and simplest came on move 52. If she had played 52.Re7+ first, and only then followed up with 53.Re8 after the king retreated, it would have been game over. There was nothing Cramling could do to even pretend to fight after that. Instead, Pogonina played 52.Re8??, allowing Cramling to escape to a lost but playable ending with rooks and opposite-colored bishops, but down two pawns. Somehow she even won one of the pawns back and simplified the ending considerably, although she subsequently blundered her last pawn. Still, in the resulting ending with rook, bishop and two split pawns (one a wrong-colored rook pawn) vs. rook and opposite-colored bishop she had excellent drawing chances. She defended very well, but eventually errors crept in and cost her the game. The most obvious error was her failing to take the h-pawn on move 89. Black's king isn't getting mated and the absolute worst thing that can happen to Black is that she could end up defending with rook against rook and bishop - but I don't see how White can even get that far.

    In the other match, none of the games finished with a logical result. In the first 25-minute game Harika had a big advantage and probably would have won a nice attacking game had she played the strong move 33.Bc1(!). Instead, she played 33.Qf3(?), and after 33...Qb7 uncorked the horrid 34.Rc2??, walking into a lethal fork by 34...Ne1.

    In game two Harika had to play risky chess, so it wasn't surprising that she was in trouble, even lost, early in the middlegame. Muzychuk got a little sloppy with 23.Qd6 followed by 24.Bf4, most likely missing 24...Qe8(!). From there on Harika played very well, outplayed her opponent and came away with a well-deserved win. On to the ten-minute games!

    Harika again started with White, and in a strategically complicated position made a huge error when she played 20.Bf1. Had Muzychuk played 20...f4, she would have had a winning position. She missed it, and the game went on uneventfully for a long time. It seemed that the game was going to end in a draw, but at a certain point in the queen ending Muzychuk got into hot water. The big error was 44...Kh6; 44...Qf7 was necessary, not fearing the transition to a pawn ending. After 44...Qf7 45.Qxf7+ Kxf7 46.f3 exf3+ 47.Kxf3 Kf6 48.Kf4 it looks at first as if White is winning, as Black's king can't keep its counterpart off of the fifth rank. As it turns out, however, 48...Kg6 49.Ke5 Kg5 is fine for Black. White's only try is to make a run for the queenside: 50.Kd6 f4 51.gxf4+ Kxf4 52.Kc6 Kg3 53.Kxb6 Kxh4 54.Kxa5 h4 it's going to be a tablebase draw in spite of White's extra pawn on the queenside.

    Back to the game: after 44...Kh6 45.h4 Black was in zugzwang, and Harika won a pawn. On move 52 she won a second pawn, and the rest would normally be a matter of technique. For a long time Harika's technique was very good, and while Muzychuk put up good resistance the game was close to a conclusion after 77 moves. Here the shortest path to victory was 78.h6, not fearing Black's counterplay. After 78.h6 Qd1+ 79.Kh2 Qe2 White can boldly push her passer again - 80.h7 - as the checks come to a speedy end and then the pawn will queen. The way Harika chose wasn't so bad either, but on move 83 the right way to defend the f-pawn - if she was going to defend it at all (83.Qg7+ followed by 84.h7 was again good enough) - was with 83.Qf4. Instead, she played 83.Qe3??, and Muzychuk astutely recognized that the pawn ending was a draw.

    Harika had shown great resilience throughout the match, but this was too much. In the last game she was already lost after ten moves, and while the game lasted 56 moves in total it was a rout from start to finish.

    So Muzychuk moves on, and the two luckiest players in the tournament (they weren't only lucky, and of course they helped make their own luck, but they both received a number of pure gifts at crucial moments in the tournament) will face off in the final. Whose luck will come to an end, and who will run into the juggernaut that is Hou Yifan in October? Stay tuned.

    Monday
    Mar302015

    Women's World Championship Semi-Finals, Day 2

    Two matches, two tiebreaks. The participants in the women's world championship will not enjoy a day off today/tomorrow (Tuesday), as Natalia Pogonina managed to come back from an opening defeat in her third straight match, while Harika Dronavalli and Mariya Muzychuk drew their second straight game.

    Pogonina was in a must-win situation against Pia Cramling, and surprisingly Cramling helped her by playing a very sharp and provocative line of the Sicilian. Black's position was already difficult, but Cramling's 20th and 21st moves were practically suicidal. 20...Rc8 created tactical problems involving a possible Nd6, while 21...Qd8 guaranteed a swap of the dark-squared bishops. This exchange was massively in White's favor, and the rest of the game was just a demolition job. Pogonina's last move, 38.Nd7+, was a nice finishing touch, and now she has the psychological momentum going into the rapid tiebreaks.

    It's harder to say who has the psychological upper hand in the other match, if anyone. Harika was the one pressing and could enjoy an extra pawn in a rook and four vs. rook and three ending, but Muzychuk was never in trouble. The game was a long one, but not an especially difficult one for the defender.

    So we wait: there will be more chess before the finalists are determined.

    Sunday
    Mar292015

    Women's World Championship Semi-Finals, Day 1

    Both of today's games at the Women's World Championship were decided in endgames, and in both endgames there may have been missed opportunities. Mariya Muzychuk enjoyed a fairly significant advantage against Harika Dronavalli both shortly before the time control on move 40 and then again a few moves afterwards, but didn't managed to maintain her edge against the Indian grandmaster's stout defense. The game finished in a draw after 60 moves.

    Meanwhile, Natalia Pogonina played Lasker's Defense against Pia Cramling's Queen's Gambit, an approach which generally leads to two-result play - either White wins a long game or Black holds a draw. That's just what happened here: Black had to suffer forever. (To adapt a phrase from Dmitry Komarov, commenting on one of Magnus Carlsen's games from the World Blitz Championship last year in Dubai, "Pia Cramling will play this position until her opponent dies.") Cramling took her time carving up her opponent, and perhaps the critical moment came on Black's 49th move. After Pogonina's 49...Kd7 and Cramling's 50.h5, White's advantage is clearly decisive, and Cramling never gave her opponent another chance to survive. (Maybe she could have won more simply, e.g. with 71.d7+ Kxd7 72.Rg6, but she never endangered the win.)

    Instead, Black could have tried 49...gxh4+ 50.Kxh4 and then 50...Kd7, waiting. I'm far from sure that Black is surviving this, but she has a shot. A possible line: 51.Rb5 Kc8! 52.Kh5 Kc7 53.Rb6 Rxb6 54.axb6+ Kxb6 55.Kxh6 Ka5 56.Kg7 b5 57.Kxf7 b4 58.g5 b3 59.g6 b2 60.g7 b1Q 61.g8Q Qf5+ 62.Ke7 Kb5. Maybe someone can plug this into a 7-man tablebase somewhere or to FinalGen to let us know the assessment, but at least practically speaking Black has good chances to hold.

    So Pogonina must win tomorrow, but her fans need not fret too much - she has been in this position the past two rounds as well. Whatever happens - both in this match or in the other one - we will have a first-time women's world champion in a week or so.

    Sunday
    Mar292015

    Women's World Championship: Down to the Final Four

    The "Elite Eight" round of the Women's World Championship featured some big surprises, as the #1 and #3 seeds - Humpy Koneru and Anna Muzychuk - were both bounced from the tournament. Humpy was better in most of the games in the match, but made lots of tactical errors (including some outright blunders in the first classical game) and lost to Mariya Muzychuk. Meanwhile, Mariya's older sister was outplayed by the Grand Dame of the tournament, Sweden's Pia Cramling. It would be nice to see a woman whose tenure as a top female player pre-dates the Polgar sisters finally get to enjoy a little time at the top.

    Anyway, we're down to the Final Four, and those matches, which are underway as I type this, see Mariya Muzychuk take on Harika Dronavalli and Pia Cramling battling Natalia Pogonina. The first-named player is White in today's games, and in both cases that player enjoys a slight edge.

    Sunday
    Mar292015

    Early Tales of Woe from the Women's World Championship

    It's a bit past the sell-by date as news, but these timeless tales of what can go wrong at a chess board may still be of interest. Both from Jeff Hall, by email:

    From round 1, quoting Jeff:

    http://www.chessgames.com/perl/chessgame?gid=1788248

    Daulyte had won the first rapid tiebreak with Black and so only needed a draw with White to advance to the 2nd round.

    Thinking she saw a perpetual check and in time trouble, she hung her queen with 57 Qd8-a5+?? and resigned before Socko could play the obvious 57 ... Qe1xQa5.

    What had she overlooked besides hanging her queen? MATE IN 1 MOVE! In the position where she hung her queen, she could have instead played 57 b5-b6#, winning the game and the match.

    She then lost the next round of tiebreak games 2-0, understandably.

    Must have been a long flight back to Lithuania for Daulyte.

    Here's the second one, from the round 2 tiebreaks. Huang Xian needed to win this game against Bela Khotenashvili to force an Armageddon game, and she was well on her way when she needed to make her 40th move. She was up a piece, a pawn, and over a minute on the clock, while her opponent was down to about six seconds. And yet...have a look here to see what happened. (The relevant action takes place at about 4:49:30.)

    It is sometimes inexplicable how the mind works, and when something like this happens all you can do is shrug it off as best you can. (You can replay the full game here.)

    Monday
    Mar232015

    Women's World Championship, Round 3, Day 1

    I'm going to try doing a quick post of today's action, and will turn things over tomorrow to a guest blogger. Your expressions of support have been greatly appreciated, not least the invitation to take things easy and not to rush to post. In part as a self-diagnostic, and in part because not blogging is making me a bit stir-crazy, I'll try this one now, and then resume my rest from the computer. Without any further ado...

    We're down to the Sweet 16 (an allusion to both a '50s rite of passage for teen girls and to where we are in the annual college basketball tournaments here in the U.S.), and so far the dominant player is the top seed, Indian GM Humpy Koneru. She won her first two matches with 2-0 scores, and got off on the right foot in this one with a convincing win over Alisa Galliamova. Perhaps there was one moment when Galliamova might have been able to cause some trouble early on, with 20...hxg2 first and only then ...Rc8. White (Humpy) would have enjoyed compensation for the slight material sacrifice, but Black would have been better off than in the game. In fact, material was only one part of the story. The second part became clear at move 26. By this point Koneru had played 21.gxh3 and 24.Kh1, and then 26.Rg1 was the punchline. Eventually that rook made its way to g7, and White's "blind pigs" (an old expression referring to a pair of rooks on the enemy second rank) decided the game.

    While Humpy's win was not much of a surprise, the victory of the other Indian entrant was. After defeating my pre-tournament pick (Irina Krush) in tiebreaks, she was up against one of the four remaining Russians in the field, former women's world champion Alexandra Kosteniuk. Kosteniuk was White in a Winawer and enjoyed a significant edge early on. To consolidate that edge and guarantee a "two result" game (i.e. either White wins or Black holds a draw) she needed to round up Black's passed a-pawn, which could have been done with 25.Rc3 a2 26.Rb3 followed by 27.Rb2 and snapping it off. Instead, she attempted to improve other aspects of her position, but thanks to some nifty tactics and the a-pawn's survival she was soon left with a lost position. Harika's technique was up to the task, and the Russian lost.

    Speaking of which...that was true of all four Russian women: they all lost. The aforementioned Galliamova was married to Vasil Ivanchuk once upon a time, but she is Russian and not Ukranian, and in addition to her loss and Kosteniuk's Natalia Pogonina and Valentina Gunina will also face must-win games tomorrow to avoid elimination.

    Pogonina's loss, with the black pieces against Marie Sebag, was exceptionally long and must have been correspondingly painful. The opening was a 4.d3 Berlin, and one interesting moment suitable for analysis came on move 14. White thought for about 16 minutes before choosing the positional 14.Bd3, clearing c2 for the knight. I suspect that she probably spent only 2-3 minutes on that move, at most, and spent most of the time puzzling through the complications beginning with 14.f4 exf4 15.Rxf4 g5. Here both 16.Qf3 and 16.Qd3 lead to all sorts of fun tactical possibilities, but they're probably more fun when one isn't playing in an elimination tournament with lots of money at stake.

    Moreover, Sebag's pragmatic approach may have been objectively best as well. It certainly worked out in the game, as she was soon clearly better and then even winning. Sebag's 25.d5 followed by the little tactical trick culminating in 28.Bxb5 picked off a clear pawn (28...Bxb5 29.Nd5 wins the bishop on c7, as 29...Qd7?? loses the queen to 30.Nf6+). Sebag was well on her way to victory, but a position arose where the advantage was no longer a comfortable one. From a computer's standpoint, the advantage grew, but so did the complexity of the win. It was not a "matter of technique"; instead, she had to find a precise move, the right idea, and couldn't just coast to victory. That precise move was 35.Rxd6!, and it was missed.

    By the time the players made the time control (after their 40th moves) Pogonina had reclaimed material equality and the position was approximately equal. (It could have been completely equal had she spotted the neat 39...Rxg3! 40.fxg3 Nf5+ 41.Kh2 Ne3 followed by taking the rook on d5 and using the counterattacking chances provided by the opposite-colored bishops. It's understandable that Pogonina missed or rejected this, as she was almost surely in time trouble.) So Pogonina had escaped, but with 44...fxe6 rather than 44...Nxe6 she had to start suffering all over again. In due course a rook ending was reached, with Sebag once again a pawn ahead, and Pogonina dutifully defended into the third and final time control (starting on move 61).

    That ending was objectively drawn, and on move 75 Sebag sacrificed her extra pawn in the hopes of making progress. By now the players were in time trouble again and living off of the increments, a state of affairs which was worse for Pogonina as the defender than for her opponent. Pogonina's 79...Ra1+ was dubious, though not fatal (she should have pushed her passer straight away), but on move 81 her decision to follow the hoary adage that passed pawns must be pushed cost her the game for the final time. She needed to find the subtle 85...Ra5!!, pinning the b-pawn; only thus could she have survived. She might have found this with more time, but to mind the real damage was done, practically speaking, two moves earlier. After 81...h4? the win was straightforward, though Pogonina could have put up much greater resistance with 86...Qxc6+! followed by 87...Ra6+ and 88...Rg6. Peter Svidler once famously failed to defeat Boris Gelfand in a queen vs. rook ending, so it was certainly worth a shot - especially considering how easy the win was after the move she played in the game. (White, for her part, probably should have chosen a different 86th move, at least unless she felt confident in her ability to win the Q vs. R. ending.)

    The fourth Russian failure came at the hands of Pia Cramling, one of the oldest players in the field. (Born in 1963, she is probably the oldest.) Cramling was a trailblazer in women's chess, one of the few women of her day who would, and could, regularly and successfully compete against men in open events. Before the game I heard or saw Gunina say that Cramling had "good fundamentals" and would always get the advantage, but that she (Gunina) would always trick her and win on time. That led me (together with a little bit of reverse ageism) to root for Cramling, and she didn't disappoint. She was winning practically straight out of the opening, and while Gunina played on forever and tried every trick, there was no escape. Cramling was a very deserved winner.

    It was possible to win even if one's opponent wasn't from Russia (though that seemed to help). Former women's world champion Antoaneta Stefanova had a winning advantage against Mariya Muzychuk, but that advantage needed consolidating due to her potentially overextended kingside pawns and the porousness of the squares behind them. (Black's rook on the second rank was likewise a factor.) Stefanova didn't manage, and soon Muzychuk had a significant edge. Stefanova defended stoutly and was seemingly on her way to a draw - until another error soon after the time control gave her a lost position. Like Pogonina, Stefanova had a third chance to save the game, and - like Pogonina - was unable to make good. Muzychuk's 58...g5 was a bit of a bait, and Stefanova bit. Had she ignored it with something like 59.Kd4! she probably would have saved the game, the point being that 59...gxf4 60.gxf4 Bxf4?? 61.Rxe7+ would win for White while even more sensible 60th moves for Black wouldn't be terribly worrisome. Black has to keep White's king out of c5, needs to keep the e7 pawn protected (and it can't be protected by ...Kf7 as a subsequent bishop move would allow d6+) and has to worry about keeping the f5 pawn protected as well - it can be targeted in various ways (especially but not only if Black plays ...Bxf4 at some point). All this to say that ...gxf4 wasn't really a threat. Unfortunately for Stefanova, she played 59.fxg5?, inviting the Black king across the board, and after that White had no chance to defend.

    The sixth and final winner of the day was the last Chinese player remaining in the competition, Zhao Xue. (There were nine Chinese players at the start of the tournament, with only Russia, with 10 players, having more representation in the field.) She defeated Bela Khotenashvili straightforwardly and smoothly, keeping alive her country's hopes for an all-Chinese world championship match later this year. (Outgoing champion and women's #1 Hou Yifan earned her spot in that match by winning the last Women's Grand Prix series.)

    Finally, the two draws. The first featured Georgian IM Meri Arabidze, who is the dark horse or Cinderella of the remaining participants, with a rating of just 2374. (Pogonina is the second-lowest rated player remaining in the field, and while she's only rated 2456 she was 2508 less than a year ago.) Arabidze had a big advantage against Viktorija Cmilyte for almost the entire game, and there were stretches when that advantage was decisive. Unfortunately for Arabidze, she allowed Cmilyte to exchange her way out of danger, not appreciating that the nature of her advantage was such that - barring subsequent material gains - it needed to be exploited in a middlegame setting.

    The second draw also featured a Georgian player - Lela Javakhishvili - and for that matter also featured a Muzychuk - Anna, who is Mariya's older sister. This was a strange game, agreed drawn in just 23 moves, and in a position where Black (Javakhishvili) appears to have a significant advantage. Earlier, it looked like Muzychuk was on the way to a serious advantage, especially had she played e5 a move sooner than she did.

    Anyway, that wraps up this rather long post. I hope you enjoyed it, and hope you'll be just as happy with the pinch-hitter(s) in the days to come.